[MAIN BLOG POST- Week 5] Zuckerberg- Is Facebook your friend?

31 Mar

Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:

“People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. When you have control over what you share, you want to share more. When you share more, the world becomes more open and connected.”

There is no doubt that inherently people want to share and stay connected with their friends. The latter two claims by Zuckerberg however are more contentious.

Firstly, in the context of Facebook, to consider his statement that ‘when you have control over what you share, you want to share more’ I would argue the opposite. The more choice we have in controlling what we share, the more we hesitate. A concept that can simply be explained through the old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ The less we know about our own privacy on the net, the less worried we are about it. Thus when changes were made to Facebook’s default privacy settings people began to question who they wanted their information to be shared with as well as what they actually wanted to share. Boyd explains that this ‘opt out dynamic means that users have to consciously choose what it is that they wish to hide,’ (2008: 16) a notion Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt would most likely dismiss, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”  These two perspectives divide the issue of whether it is the responsibility of social networking sites to help you censor what you share, or whether it is the responsibility of the user to think about their actions in the first place. Either way, controlling what you share brings a number of considerations into the picture that users don’t think about when they first join Facebook. This awareness then leads to the question, if we choose to share more, does the world really become more ‘open and connected?’

Jeff Jarvis, author of the book ‘What would Google do?’ and a digital commentator at numerous social media conferences, agrees with Zuckerberg, and goes even further to suggest ‘this publicness that we start to live will make us a more tolerant society.’ On the other hand, sharing more on Facebook creates more opportunities for gossip, a problem being faced in high schools around the world (Nais.org)It can jeopardize you getting a job or even being called for an interview (Solove, 2007: 39.) Your statuses could be exploited (Failbooking) Governments and advertising companies get more access to your information and finally, it would seem that this ‘publicness’ or greater amount of sharing leaves no room for change in a person because these fragments of your private life or the ‘trail of information’ you leave behind on the internet will, like Solove points out, ‘forever exist…displayed instantly in a Google search.’ (2007: 18) Thus, although the potential exists for the world to become more open and connected through sharing more, if the ‘tolerance’ Jeff Jarvis speaks of doesn’t override the risks of being more public, Zuckerberg’s vision of a more socially connected and public world will seldom become a reality.

References:

Danah Boyd, ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreak: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14.4 (2008): 13-20.

Solove, D.J. (2007) ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour, and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49.

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